Kane And Lynched: Hitman Dev Hit With Huge Layoffs

By Nathan Grayson on June 18th, 2013 at 9:00 am.

So many layoffs. When will the carnage end?

After the gaming industry went on a dubstep-and-Dew-fueled vacation to E3 last week, it’s now back to business as usual. By “business,” I of course mean layoffs, and goodness gracious, figurative business is booming. However, literal business – the part where people make money – isn’t faring so well because, well, layoffs. This time, the sobering specter took its scythe to Hitman developer IO Interactive, reducing its workforce by “almost half”. Yeesh. The plan to get things back on track? Er, make more Hitman. Which is to say, make nothing but Hitman.

Square Enix explained the situation in a statement to Develop:

“We have taken the difficult decision to cancel other studio projects and initiatives at IO and reduce the workforce in this studio, which will impact almost half of the employees currently at IO, as we make internal adjustments to face the challenges of today’s market.”

“Hannes Seifert, formerly Production Director for 3 years at the studio, will take over the position of Studio Head at IO. The studio will focus resolutely on the future vision for the Hitman franchise and is in pre-production on a new triple-A Hitman project.”

So basically, whatever IO had in development that wasn’t the next Hitman has now been silently, elegantly 86’d by 47. Sayonara, Kane, Lynch, or whomever else might’ve been skulking around in the shadow of IO’s bald savior. That said, IO’s next Hitman might not end up being the next Hitman – at least, if previous word of a Call-of-Duty-style development relay race between IO and Square Enix Montreal holds up.

To Square Enix’s credit, it’s trying to move as many former IO devs over to other studios and projects as possible. Honestly, it could’ve used E3 as a smokescreen for this dismal turn of events if it really wanted. Instead, however, it waited until everyone had a clear view of the proceedings, presumably in an effort to find former employees new jobs more quickly. Bravo on that.

I’m trying to unearth more details about what else IO was working on before the gaming industry’s well-worn axe fell right down the center of its meticulously chromed dome. If I find out anything else, you lovely people will be the first to know.

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32 Comments »

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  1. Shezo says:

    There goes my slim hope for Freedom fighters 2.
    Boooo!

  2. pacificator says:

    How nice :).
    I was just interviewing for a position there.
    Thanks for the warning RPS :), they certainly did not say anything about this.

    • Shuck says:

      That’s one of the f*ed up things about the game industry. Last publisher-owned studio I worked at, we hired a number of people just as the publisher was thinking about shutting us down. In the end, we had people who relocated great distances to work less than a month before the studio closed. And that’s happened to a lot of friends as well. I’ve certainly been to interviews where it became clear that they didn’t know if they would be hiring or laying people off…

  3. MeestaNob says:

    Square…

    – Deus Ex 3 well received = follow up with nonsensical iPad sequel.
    – Hitman dumbed down and consequently panned by critics = half of dev studio sacked, other half tasked with producing yet more Hitman anyway.
    – Thief 4 shaping up to be very ordinary.

    Can’t imagine why they’re losing money.

    • dftaylor says:

      Trying to generate success based on old IP that doesn’t have the same value to a modern audience is silly. DXHR was a really good game – did it sell well?

      Hitman had flashes of its old brilliance wrapped up in a desperate attempt to be “grindhouse”. All the Danish cool has gone, replaced by silliness – even compared to Blood Money’s silliness. But that’s more an example of developers thinking the game needs a narrative. It’s about a professional killer, FFS – that’s the narrative, not rescuing some girl.

      Anyway, Tomb Raider was a good game.Thief 4 looks interesting. But these are old, old IPs. There comes a point when name value isn’t enough.

        • dftaylor says:

          That’s good to see. I genuinely didn’t know if it had been a sales success. Maybe Squeenix should look at the difference between that and Hitman/Tomb Raider.

          Certainly DXHR seemed more designed around the core of what made the original so good. Tomb Raider was pretty, IMO, but had very little to do with actual tombs and everything to do with Lara’s personality, which wasn’t especially interesting anyway. Rhianna Pratchett’s script was mind-numbingly bad.

          Hitman, as all the reviews pointed out, had very little in common with the Hitman games of the past. There were some incredible moments when it was a sandbox of murderous opportunities, but not enough of them.

      • DasBlob says:

        “It’s about a professional killer, FFS – that’s the narrative”

        This. I never cared much about the mission-overarching plot of the hitman games. If a new Hitman game gave me the ICA as a hub and twelve maps(of the kind they had in H2 to H4) to take on in any order I like I would be perfectly fine. Just Agent 47 doing his job and no ludicrous plot to connect the essentially seperate maps. They could release a couple of new maps every few monthes as DLC and I would keep buying them – for years, potentially, if the engine looks good and runs stably. And if they enabled players to generate their on murdery maps that could mean endless hours of play.

      • Homu Homu says:

        Tomb Raider was not a good game. It suffered from all the same problem Hitman and Thief 4 do: it’s being developed by people who don’t understand what made those games good.

    • KenTWOu says:

      Deus Ex 3 well received = follow up with nonsensical iPad sequel.

      Who cares? Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director’s Cut coming to PC.

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      Vandelay says:

      Hitman didn’t sell particularly great and neither did Tomb Raider (well, they were lower than expected, but the numbers seemed good to anyone who wasn’t expecting CoD numbers,) but both got pretty good reviews all round. The only negative reviews they received were from people who seemed to have actually played the earlier games in their respective series and compared them. Neither came off well then, but most reviews didn’t seem to care.

    • PampleMoose says:

      I swear it has everything to do with Square Enix’s obsession with cutscenes. I mean, realistically, I’m sure a good amount of money could have been saved if Square bugged the hell out of development on DXHR, and made Eidos Montreal do everything in engine. It wouldn’t have significantly changed anything, it would have been perfectly in keeping with Deus Ex, and they probably could have saved some dosh.

      With all of their games, in fact, there’s this obsession with presentation and story, where their story is generally pretty mediocre, and effort on presentation may well have been better spent on gameplay (particularly in the case of H:A). I consistently feel like Square don’t really ‘get’ their games, and they basically fluked DXHR by having devs that actually loved the original game. Most of the bits I disliked about DXHR (cutscenes, the ending, and the boss battles) have Square’s thumbprints all over them. It goes all the way back to Square’s first Western-developed title Order of War, which was essentially World at War but not nearly as good. Started with the beach at Normandy…zzzzzz.

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    Gap Gen says:

    Shit, man. :(

    Still, good they’re trying to find people jobs. Hopefully everyone comes out of this OK.

  5. LionsPhil says:

    Sad, but then IO haven’t actually been making good games since they started that whole Kane & Lynch thing. I wonder if key talent hadn’t already left.

    • plugmonkey says:

      I’ve wondered that myself. All too often people seem to think that a studio is its name, or at most its figurehead.

      The fact is the people you are really a fan of you never know the names of, and have no way to track.

      • PampleMoose says:

        Mobygames is usually pretty good for that sort of thing.

        EDIT: Out of curiosity, I just had a look at the respective credits for BM and Absolution. A lot of personnel across both titles, although the original Game Director (seems to essentially be Lead Developer) was Rasmus Hojengaard, who is now at Crytek’s Frankfurt studio and has been since BM. Also noticed a tonne more producers and audio/visual production staff, with a couple of BM’s senior staff now either one amongst peers or instead have new superiors.

  6. John Connor says:

    Maybe at long last they will make a proper Hitman game again.

  7. Renegade says:

    Real shame but I’m not surprised after how things went with Kane and Linch series and then Absolution.

    I’m stiill quite bitter how could they follow up Blood Monday, with what I personally feel is one of the best games last decade and throw out most of the stuff that made it such an amazing game….

  8. tnzk says:

    Square Enix are making all the wrong moves. I mean, EA and Activision can excuse themselves for being downright evil, but Square Enix? They’re just being straight up stupid.

    Also, I’ll be one of the only few souls crying over the end of Kane & Lynch. It was rough, it was disgusting, and it was mired in endless controversy, but it had some sort of ugly charisma that I go back to once in a while.

    • jonahcutter says:

      Go play Hitman Absolution. It’s as much (perhaps more) a sequel to Kane and Lynch as anything.

      I always thought while making Absolution, they really wanted to be making a third K&L. K&L would make a good fit for the grindhouse vibe, along with the cover-based action shooting, cutscenes, forced mission endings, etc. All of which fit terribly with Hitman.

      Also K&L never really defined itself as a series. Both games were significantly different from each other outside of just shooting lots of dudes. That would fit in well with their “do every game in the series different” philosophy. A stupid philosophy for a game franchise like Hitman, that is popular because it has such unique and specific gameplay.

      Something as ill-defined as Kane and Lynch is perfect for constantly throwing in new, and throwing away old. Hitman is not. You don’t constantly reinterpret it. You fine tune it.

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    jezcentral says:

    I don’t understand why they haven’t got more mileage out of Hitman. They still sold 3.6 million copies, and you would have thought that they would have come out with DLC of single levels.

    I don’t understand why they didn’t do this for Blood Money, but even Absolution’s big levels were universally praised, even by those who didn’t like the smaller ones. Every videogame comes out with DLC, it seems, except for the one game that is structurally most suited to it.

    • roryok says:

      They do always seem to pour efforts into the next Hitman game rather than expansions. There are a couple of iterations that use the same engine and could be considered as large expansion packs.

    • KenTWOu says:

      I guess, it’s really hard to make such big levels properly, that’s why Absolution doesn’t have as many of them as we need from the get-go.

  10. Megakoresh says:

    Wasn’t it IO who did the boss fights for Human Revolution?

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      jezcentral says:

      No, they did some mo-capping for them though. GRIP did the boss battles, but I still blame the in-house devs for those, who should have kept an eye on things.

      DXHR was still a great game though, that 1% of it apart.

      • jonahcutter says:

        Human Revolutions was a great game. I loved it. But it had more flaws than just 1%.

        One-button, cutscene take-downs. Really silly AI at times. Crawling through inexplicably huge airducts on high-security bases as “stealth”. XP system needed retooling and balancing. The whole final act of switching to fighting zombies was really ill-fitting. The ending itself was obviously straining to be huge and heavy, but fell somewhat flat. It tried hard, never really got there.

        • PampleMoose says:

          I feel the reason HR’s ending failed was because it was push a button > trigger a cutscene. At least you had to do different things in the finale in both DX1 and 2 to change things – in HR you have a series of buttons sitting in a room. And the cutscenes weren’t that different, anyway. It just was so extremely passive, rather than rising to a climax. Again, I feel like SE didn’t ‘get’ the game, and had these cutscenes put together when really the ending needed something else..

          And yeah, Eidos should wear some of the fallout from the boss battles. But I feel like when you have a situation where development is being outsourced to another internal company, it comes down to money, and who’s doing the bean counting. I don’t have any doubt SE must have had at least some involvement in that particular development decision, even if only at a development cost level.

  11. IgnitingIcarus says:

    I really wished that title would’ve been either Kaned and Lynched or Caned and Lynched.

  12. Zero_hu says:

    I think it would be high time the publisher went bankrupt. I just HATE what they are doing with my favourite franchises.

    I loved Hitman. From the first installment, i just loved it. Even Blood Money.
    Then this trainwreck of a game Absolution arrived. I can’t find anything I could like about it. I hate the story, it’s stupid as hell. I hate ALL the game mechanics, EVERYTHING I have to do in the game to be stealthy is counterintuitive, and really retarded. I have to spin around constantly in a crowd to not get spotted. It’s better to dive into cover in plain sight, instead of standing still and wait for the threat to walk by. I can blend in a crowd best in a unique suit than in one everyone wears.
    And I didn’t even mention the small maps (forced onto us by the shitty 2005 hardware of the consoles), the padding levels with no targets to kill, and the total unnecessary cover system…
    It’s simply horrible to play. I am not complaining about that it’s not comparable to earlier Hitman games. I’m complaining, because it’s bad, as a stealth game, and bad as a shooter. It’s both, and it’s neither, and is painful to play.

    Then there’s Kane and Lynch. Again, I loved the original. It has a Tarantino-esque feeling. It could be said, that the story and the dialogues are just a mixup of ’90s action movies. Lynch killing the bitch is straight from Jackie Brown. The bank heist is Heat. Etc. It’s just great, i love it.
    Then the sequel… We are riding in a car, it crashes, then we have to kill, kill, kill, kill. On the third level I could find nothing appealing, so I just quit the CoD-like killfest. I admit, it may have a good story, too bad, it didn’t start by then.

    The least complaint I have with Deus Ex Human Revolution. The problem is, that it is a remake, not an another game. The story is a bit different, but it’s basically the same. The powers are the same. The locations follow each other in the same order and the pacing is the same. It has awfully few new things compared to the original, if any. It should’ve called Deus Ex: Deja Vu, cause that was I felt all the time playing through it. It is clearly the best of the three, and the one I enjoyed, but still…

    I want my franchises back. Square, please, go kill yourself! Thanks in advance…